Most pupils in the UAE are set to return to school on Sunday. Typically, the last weekend of the summer holiday is a busy time for parents and children alike. In preparation, thousands flock to malls and stock up on school supplies, from backpacks to calculators.
Besides the usual anxieties and preparation, this term carries for some the niggling worry of their children's safety. Given what the Covid-19 pandemic has put everyone through during the past year across the world, such concerns are not unfounded. But parents on edge need only to look at the facts, and the strides made to ensure safety for children and staff across the hundreds of schools in the UAE.
For one, this week the number of daily Covid-19 in the country cases dropped to 983 – the lowest so far this year. New infections have been on a steady decline even as testing still continues at pace.
For another, while masks and social distancing remain indispensable, in Abu Dhabi children aged 16 and above, as well as all school staff and teachers, must be vaccinated in order to return to school. In Dubai – whose private schools are regulated by a separate education body, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority – authorities have announced safety rules for the new academic year. Schools in Dubai are expected to gradually end distance learning in the first week of October.
To be sure, even as many schools have already held in-person classes for months now, the trend across the country is clear: everyone is headed back to school, some in a more staggered manner than others. Pupils, who have missed out on the crucial social bonding and all-round development aspect of being in school, will get to be among their friends, classmates and teachers in person once again. This goes a long way to fostering their well-being, and its importance cannot be overstated.
All factors considered, education and health authorities have comprehensive measures in place to ensure that faculties and pupils remain safe. The number of pupils going back to school is projected to be higher than those of last term, when many had to open, then close, when they detected cases. The swift responses by schools and authorities helped to contain the spread of Covid-19.
As The National has reported, in Abu Dhabi pupils will have to be tested every 14 days in the first month of term. These protocols apply also to teachers and administrative staff, even if they are vaccinated. The tests will activate the green pass on Al Hosn app, which residents of the emirate are required to download in order to enter schools and other public places. Across the rest of the country, inoculation campaigns have been highly successful; in Ajman, more than 11,000 primary school pupils received the jab over the past fortnight.
In all schools, teaching and administrative staff are a responsible presence and are there to ensure that no pupil's health or safety is compromised.
It is important to remember that everyone is working towards maintaining the same goal of a safe school environment and a normal life for the country’s children. Parents' concerns are understandable. But everyone must maintain confidence that everything is being done to make sure that schools are safe and that children can go back to their vibrant young lives with the right measures.